UConn women's cross country ready for Roy Griak Invitational
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 21:09
This weekend, the UConn women’s cross country team is taking quiet confidence with them to Minneapolis, Minn., where they will compete in the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday. In what is without a doubt the Huskies’ first real challenge of the young 2012 season, Coach Andrea Grove-McDonough and her squad are primed to prove to the Northeast region and to the entire country that UConn is a legitimate NCAA championship contender.
“This weekend is important for us.” Grove-McDonough said. “Its our first opportunity to show the conference and the region, and for that matter the country, what we’ve got this year.”
The underlying strategy for the 2012 season has been one that emphasizes a shorter, more competitive schedule. The first two meets of the season – the Dartmouth Invitational and the Ted Owens Invitational – functioned as “tune-up” races, meant to get the Huskies in shape for their stretch of three consecutive meets with significant importance. The Griak Invitational presents the Huskies with a chance to earn highly important at-large points – points which are the key that opens the door to higher rankings, as well as a higher likelihood of qualifying for the NCAA championship.
“We’re now into what I consider the regular season,” Grove-McDonough said. “The early meets don’t count towards any at-large points, which is how you can qualify for the NCAA Championship if you don’t have an automatic qualifying spot. We chose to this year strategically not present our full squad until we felt we’re really ready to go.”
The Griak is no easy race. The track itself, located on a golf course minutes away from the University of Minnesota, is a hill-filled and is sure to challenge the entire UConn roster.
“The Griak is a very tricky course,” Grove-McDonough said. “It’s my home course from where I went to college. It’s rolling, it never gives you really any opportunities to get going and sort of open it up, there really aren’t any flat sections. There’s a lot of turning, and a lot of up and down terrain. A lot of schools avoid the, Griak for that reason, because its such a tough course and it beats the kids up a little bit, especially if the weather’s bad.”
The Griak also presents UConn with its first real taste of national competition. Among the schools that will be represented are 2011 Griak champion Iowa State, Baylor, Weber State, and as a strong Minnesota team that hopes to place well at its home course. All told, over twenty teams and 200 runners will be on the starting line. But despite the strong national flavor at the Griak, UConn remains not only undaunted, but determined to prove it belongs with the nation’s best.
Senior Lauren Sera, sophomore Lindsay Crevoiserat, junior Allison Lasnicki and senior Shawna McNiff, the top four runners for the Huskies, already have valuable experience on the Griak course, and all four are expected to perform well at the race. Each one finishing inside the top 15, Grove-McDonough said, isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
“We have a solid top four,” Grove-McDonough said. “[They have] tons of experience, tons of leadership and tons of composure. Those girls are going to be just fine. I have no concerns about them. Its a very mature group.”
If UConn can finish in the top five as a team, then they will more than likely make a big jump in the regional rankings, as well as perhaps join the conversation for a national ranking down the road. For that reason, the Griak Invitational has serious long-term implications for the Huskies’ championship hopes. But Grove-McDonough is confident that she has assembled a roster that is ready and able to compete with the best teams in the nation.
“Obviously I love going back to this meet, because I feel like I have a lot of good karma from the place. We have traditionally run well there,” Grove-McDonough said. “We’re eyeing Louisville, and we’re eyeing the NCAA meet in the middle of November. But we want to run like a top team in the country this weekend.”